Friday, May 24, 2013

As an Example...


Dave Arnoson had already left before 1982, over "intellectual property" issues, and went off to create his own gaming company. It didn't do as well, until they started writing computer codes for games (some of these early BASIC computer language codes would later end up in D+D like computer games : "Ultima" and Nintendo 's hugely successful "Zelda" video games).The FBI delayed the printing of TOP SECRET, the role playing game, thinking it was a 'threat to national security' (Merle Rassmussen, the designer and writer of the game had to prove he got his "intel" from the public library, and not a foreign agency), and slowly D+D was being associated, in the news, with crazy people weilding swords , running around in the sewers, looking for dragons to "vanquish" and, eventually, Satanists.

Gary Gygax, dabbling in a project to bring D+D to Hollywood,  was "forced" out of TSR, by 1987-1989, and most of the "old gang" was gone, replaced by a younger group, that spear-headed the 1984-1985 Second Edition D+D game. A version that was even more accessible to a greater number of people, but was accused of "dumbing down The Game". Other role playing companies ( Chaosium, White Dwarf / Warhammer ) started outselling D+D, using tweaked D+D rules, and TSR was taken over by a rich woman named Lorraine Williams, who knew nothing about role playing games, and was hoping to "turn it" for a profit. Story is: She was such a control freak, game designers were always clashing with her, over what made a good D+D game, and spent the better part of 1988-1993, reprinting older editions, in fancy print runs, or in special collected hard backs. One story goes: As the gaming offices were imploding, the fiction writers were saving the company.

Tales from The Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance Series, and countless other, were long running fantasy novels, and they were / are very popular. The novelization of D+D related works sold across the board, because you didn't need to be a gamer to enjoy the books. These books still make it to the New York Times bestsellers list every once and a while, and the charatcers in these books have spun off into their own series of books. It was great to be a fiction writer for TSR, until you became so famous (Tracy Hickman, R.A. Salvator), you started to effect the bottom line, and, persumeably, asked for more money, more creative control, more anything, from the sounds of it. Those that did, were escorted out the door by security, only to file their own lawsuits aganist the company later. Everything related to the game was selling (the calendars, action figures, coloring books, computer games, and, suprisingly, the miniature figures), but the actual "game" material was not doing so hot.

In the early 90's, "Vampire, the Masqurade", (you play as vampires in a dinner mystery-type game) and "The Shadowrun" ( set in a post apocalyptic future where invisible inflammable gas pockets can kill you, and alter the human spieces into mutant monster) kind of nailed the coffin shut on D+D games, which had grown stale and dull. The folks I knew never bothered with the Birth-Rite, or The Dragons of Croym series etc.

By the time Pokemon and Magic the Gathering card games were hitting the states, TSR was facing up to the harsh reality. It was impossible to dominate the game market ever again, because there was 30-40 years of other legal published material based loosely on a HG Well's public domain game and Gygax's "make it up as you go rule", In other words, (as I said previously) any role playing game ever created was, and is, going to be derived from Dungeons and Dragons, because it was the first formalized role playing game. You can't have one without the other. And when the video games DOOM and Tomb Raider came out, you were lucky to find guys willing to sit around for three hours, roll some dice, and draw up maps. In comparison, that was just soooo last decade... 


No comments:

Post a Comment